New Revised Standard Version
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. 36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? 37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? 38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Devotion by Ugena Whitlock
Have you ever walked into a room where people were in the middle of a conversation, and you just hear part of it? You may hear the end of it, but you may have missed a lot. Today’s verses are like that—they contain very important messages. We’ve heard them. Take up your cross and follow Jesus. What would you give in exchange for your soul? If you are ashamed of me, I’ll be ashamed of you. But if we re-wind to verse 27, when Jesus and disciples came to these villages, we hear more of the conversation. First, Jesus plays 20 questions with his followers, “Who do people say I am?” They of course guess Famous Figures from Jewish Lore (John the Baptist, Elijah, Other Prophets for $200, Alex). Only Peter says, “You are the Messiah.” And then Jesus told them not to tell anyone about him. Huh?
Next, in verse 31, Jesus predicts his rejection, arrest, and death. Peter starts to rebuke him. Then Jesus famously rebukes Peter—can you imagine being a follower watching all this? Get thee behind me, Satan! And THEN we come to our verses, 34-38. So the conversation goes like this: Guess who I am? You’re the Christ—Do NOT tell anybody because this is some deep stuff going down. How deep? They’re coming for me! So, you want to follow me now? Really? Ok, here’s how that needs to work…..You have to give up the places you would run back to. You can’t have your life and my life, but if you have mine, you will never be more fully you, more fully human, because this way of life glorifies God. This will not make sense unless you are all in.
End of chapter. But if you want the punch line, you have to read one more verse: Mark 9:1. He said to them, I tell you the truth, some of you standing right here will not taste death before they see that the kin-dom of God has come with power. A lot of time has passed since Jesus said these things, and I don’t know exactly what he meant by them. But like those people who were amazed by what he said—so much that they followed him all around—I know that what he was talking about here is something big and transforming. And he tells us just what we must do to have what he offers. Follow me and find life.
Holy One, help me understand what it means to take up my cross. Help me follow after the Way of Jesus and through him, know you—and know who you are calling me to be. Amen